Advocating for Defence families

Making Connections Matter with Defence Health

At Defence Families of Australia we are always looking for initiatives in our community that help and support ADF children. More often than not these initiatives are started by ADF partners themselves.

Katie Thornton is one of those partners. Katie is a Defence School Mentor (DSM) at Medowie Public School, which is the closest school to the RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle in NSW.

Katie wanted to increase the connection between her school, ADF students and their families during periods of parental absence.

More from Katie


My name is Katie Thornton and I’m the Defence School Mentor at Medowie Public School.

Being the wife of a military member and having two kids, I know first-hand how challenging it is when a parent is away for extended periods. There are feelings of disconnection from the family unit and of missing out on day-to-day experiences.

I wanted to make these times a little more fun for the kids. And to give everyone something special to look forward to and help military members feel included and connected with their families. So, I initiated Making Connections Matter: a program that uses webcams to bring military mums and dads into the classroom from wherever they are in the world.

In collaboration with Defence Health (who sponsored the cost of the webcam) and the IT expertise of Mark Berger, I was able to project video calls on to the smartboard in class.

While mums and dads can see the classroom and meet their children’s teacher and peers, it also helps students better understand what a serving family’s life is like and encourages discussion and support.

The teachers also connect elements of the Australian curriculum by engaging with ADF parents deployed overseas. The students learn about a different country; culture; food; wildlife; and climate. The joy, excitement and genuine interest the students displayed was priceless!

The possibilities and opportunities to connect really are endless. Military members can see their children receive awards, or perform in dance, band, drama and sporting activities. They would otherwise miss out on these highlights.

As a result of the amazing feedback from the teachers and DSM at Medowie Public School; students; ADF families; and local ADF command Defence Health have decided to extend sponsorship of this program to DSM supported schools on a voluntary basis in the Northern Territory, South Australia and North Queensland initially. This will be closely followed by Western Australia, South Queensland, then finally in New South Wales and Victoria.

Thanks to Katie for her initiative and to Defence Health for making this wonderful program available to ADF children.

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